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"Basically Satisfied" gate and its readers - findings of several surveys

by Bärbel Röben

"Basically satisfied" with gate is how most of our readers expressed their opinion in recent surveys. The publishers are also more than satisfied with how readers - particularly from Africa and Asia - have participated in three surveys made over the last three years.

Many readers did not just fill out the survey sheets and cards but also wrote to us. Thanks to the extensive data now available the editors can draw up a real picture of "the" gate-reader. S/he is in his/her prime (aged 30 to 50 years), belongs to a NGO working in development, is particularly interested in environmental and agricultural subjects, reads gate regularly, although not the whole publication but just special articles. Two thirds of gate-readers are men.

Our information on our readers, their expectations and needs is based on three very different surveys. A large reader survey in l992 had a return rate of 9 % - a very considerable result as it did not entail any sanction, such as being struck off the distribution list. An evaluation of the information services by ISAT on the Philippines carried out in 1994 also inquired into the gate journal and some 25 % of 208 addressees returned the questionnaire. When updating the address card index in the same year, approx. 35 % of 4,500 subscribers answered the eight questions on the attached card and returned it the first time round.

Surprisingly and happily, the findings of the 1992 subscriber survey were largely confirmed by the surveys in 1994. gate is repeatedly termed "informative", "excellent reference material" (reader survey 1992 and Philippines evaluation), "educational» and "useful" (subscriber survey 1992).

 

Expediency

"From the magazine we could receive valuable information from which in some aspects we could take essential ideas and informations", was how a reader from Indonesia put it in the recent 1994 survey and an environmental researcher from the Philippines said: "Your journal is indeed a valuable source of information to our researchers and staff." A librarian from England reported: "gate is browsed quite frequently by users of our department library."

gate is rarely thrown into the paper basket after being read, but passed on to other interested parties or filed away. We were surprised to learn from the 1994 survey that one copy of gate is usually read by ten people. An NGO staff member from Mexico reported: «We read and use gate in many forms at the office and we reproduce convenient articles for our 750 NGO members of the system LA OTRA BOLSA DE VALORES and other 300..." A reader from Bangladesh: "As a large rural development NGO, we try to use gate for two main, related purposes. Firstly to keep abreast of trends and development and to stay informed generally. Secondly, to try to pick up special ideas which we might be able to test in our own work."

The use for practical work is assessed differently, however. A reader from Ghana (reader survey 1994) says that gate satisfies her expectations. "After I have read gate and my office staff have seen it, my copy is passed on to the security personnel at the Office of the President. They appear especially interested in rural development topics, as several of them have small farms in their home villages. Two have taken up beekeeping." The Philippines survey also raised critical voices: "More case studies would be helpful for us field people" - "More information on basic problems."

 

Content

Focus articles are particularly well-liked. A reader from Uganda in 1994: "Your magazine gives an up-to-aate information about a wide spectrum of world aspects of life. This is best presented under the sector of Focus." But the other parts of the journal are also approved of. A reader from India: «We read almost everything in the book, ... The Introduction, AT Forum, Bookbox, Environment Communication, Courses and Meetings etc. are highly useful to us." "Environment" and a agriculture" are the most interesting themes for gate readers. The 1992"hitlist"was headed by "small-scale industry" which is nominated 291 times, "sustainable agriculture" followed immediately behind (286) and "environmental protection" and "environmental technologies" together were nominated 558 times.

In the Philippines 1994 survey the subjects "environmental technologies" and " environmental protection" topped the list. In the brief reader survey in the same year, 13 percent of readers requested more reports on agriculture and engineering, 10.8 percent on environmental information. We are planning to give these subjects higher priority in future issues of gate.

In the Philippines 1994 survey three quarters of readers said that they would like to receive more information on project experiences. 36 percent offered to provide corresponding reports for the editors. In all, about half of the persons replying to the survey wanted to contribute to gate. Most (42 %) wanted to provide information on local/regional events such as conferences and seminars. Such a strong commitment by our readers - particularly in the countries of the South - means that our journal has the best prospects of success in the future.